Believe the hype coming from across the Atlantic, because Paranormal Activity knows exactly what terrifies 90% of the population, and it's what goes bump in the night.
A slow burner on the circuit since it premiered at the US Scream Festival in 2007, our favourite urban legend of this Blair Witch style project is that Steven Spielberg returned his screener copy to the distributor in a bin bag because he believed it to be haunted. If that's not the best advertisement for a movie, I don't know what is.
Believe the hype coming from across the Atlantic, tales of cinema goers running out the theatre, screaming, because Paranormal Activity knows exactly what terrifies 90% of the population, and it's what goes bump in the night. Everybody is vulnerable in the dark, half-naked in bed, and this plays up to our fears. Oren Peli makes his directorial debut with a low budget, a minimal cast of unknowns, and the camera crew consisting of the actors and a tripod. The premise is simple - a lovely couple in a lovely home are disturbed by what they believe to be paranormal activity throughout the night. Dealing with the problem matter-of-factly, Micah (Micah Sloat) uses a video camera to record their entire life at home, 24/7, ready to pick up on the unwanted houseguest in action. We see Micah and Katie (Katie Featherstone) going about their day to day business, with improvised dialogue. But it's what's seen in the footage filmed when they're asleep that slays us. A moving door, a thud, a shadow... Peli shows himself to be a master of suspense. That you can barely make out what's happening in the murky shadows because of the unprofessional camera filming in the dark only adds to the thrill. More unsettling moments come as you see how the presence manifests itself in the unconscious Katie - Casper this is not.
Whispers, groans, creaking floorboards - all horror film standards, but given a fresh face with the handheld camera à la Cloverfield (except this was filmed beforehand). You'll be screaming for our victims to put on some bloody shoes, turn on the lights, do anything, as they feel so vulnerable in their night clothes. It's a good old-fashioned chiller to the extreme, and could be "fun" for all the family if it weren't for the naturalistic bad language. And the fact that no child would ever be able to sleep again.
Scary it is, but whether or not it haunts you for eternity will depend on your belief in the supernatural, which is where The Blair Witch Project had greater strengths - it kept to the unknown. Believe in ghosts? You are going to shit yourself. Don't? Well, like me, you'll be waiting for The Human Centipede to ruin your nights.